David Wallace-Wells | Bill Gates: ‘We’re in a Worse Place Than I Expected’ – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“There are not many more contested abstractions in the contemporary world than progress. Are things getting better? Fast enough? For whom?

Those questions are, in a somewhat singular way, tied symbolically to Bill Gates. By objective standards among the most generous philanthropists the world has ever known, Gates is seen more and more by critics, in a time of intensifying income inequality, as a creature of the Pollyannaish plutocracy — with the billions given each year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation perhaps more significant as a symptom of the world’s problems than a potential solution. Even a partial one.

In 2015 the United Nations established 17 sustainable development goals — measurable benchmarks of human progress that might guide a path “to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change by 2030.” Every year since 2017, the Gates Foundation has released a sort of progress report tracking key data points: poverty, malnutrition, maternal mortality and 15 more.”

This year, at the halfway point, how do things look? “Seven years in, the world is on track to achieve almost none of the goals,” Gates and his ex-wife, the foundation’s co-founder Melinda French Gates, write in the introduction to the latest report. On poverty, the goal was to eradicate extreme poverty, and since 2015, the percentage of the world living on less than $1.90 a day has fallen only to about 8 percent from just above 10 percent; on malnutrition, the prevalence of growth stunting in children under 5 is still above 20 percent; maternal mortality is more than twice as high as the standard set by the 2015 goals. “As it stands now, we’d need to speed up the pace of our progress five times faster to meet most of our goals — and even that might be an underestimate, because some of the projections don’t yet account for the impact of the pandemic, let alone the war in Ukraine or the food crisis it kicked off in Africa,” the introduction reads.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Is Bill Gates, who I admire so much, really ignorant of the importance of overpopulation to the climate crisis, or does the questioning of David Wallace-Wells just make Gates look impervious and out of touch with the elephant in the room, overpopulation. Probably the former, Gates is in denial about overpopulation. In his magnificent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he ignores family planning and population control. These words do not exist in the index.
David Lindsay Jr blogs at InconvenientNews.net

David Wallace-Wells | It’s Been a ‘Summer of Disasters,’ and It’s Only Half Over – The New York Times

    Opinion Writer

” “We’re naming summer ‘Danger Season’ in the U.S.,” wrote Kristy Dahl, the principal climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in early June. A couple of days later, at Axios, the climate reporter Andrew Freedman echoed that warning: “America is staring down a summer of disasters.”

The season is now only half over, and the worst months for California fires, which typically provide the most harrowing images of the summer, still lie ahead. But the calendar has already been stuffed with climate disruption, so much so that one disaster often seemed layered over the last, with newspaper front pages almost identical across the Northern Hemisphere. In July, Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans began compiling them on Twitter, running out of steam when he got past 100. Climate segments of newscasts cut quickly from one part of the world to another, telling almost identical stories, day after day.

And yet the mood of those newscasts — in which warming is shown clearly to be blanketing the world, country by country — has mixed horror with a reluctant acceptance. Climate change is here, you think, your mind perhaps drifting past what can be done to limit future warming and toward what can be done to manage living in that future. The disruptions are large already, and arriving as prophesied — indeed, often earlier than predicted. They’ve also been normalized enough that, alongside the shock, they raise practical questions.

The term for this is “adaptation,” and the wallpaper texture of the climate news cycle this summer — with once-horrifying impacts now seeming commonplace — suggests that efforts to acclimate to new realities are following quite quickly on the footsteps of alarm.”

Philip Cafaro
Fort Collins, CO Aug. 3

“Adaptation isn’t a cure all,” even for people. And let’s not forget, it does nothing for the millions of other species we are taking down with us.

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Frish commented August 3

Frish
Los AngelesAug. 3

I’m an anthropologist and I’ve been studying this for 50 years. We’ve already disrupted the biosphere’s ability to continue supporting human life, we just haven’t seen the full effects yet. Because of the speed with which we’ve included CO2 in the atmosphere many species will not be able to cope with the resulting outcomes. The last mass extinction took 60,000 years to develop. We’ve made our increases in the last 200 years and more so since 1950. Few things can adapt evolutionarily to that dramatic increase and speed of a change. The jet stream is already meandering. when the jet stream goes chaotic there won’t be a planting season hence no agriculture but there won’t be any seasons at all hence millions of species will be going extinct. Children always come with a death sentence but now a newborn faces extinction as a future. The only moral choice is to not have children. Besides that’s the best thing an individual can do to reduce one’s impact on the environment. I continue to be amazed that no media is suggesting that anyone stop having children but there will come a time in the not too distant future when the realization that we have no future will be more commonplace.

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Erik Frederiksen commented August 3

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NCAug. 3

The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. (graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg ) One amplifying feedback alone out of dozens, loss of albedo or heat reflectivity from Arctic summer sea ice melt, over the last several decades has been equivalent to 25 percent of the climate forcing of anthropogenic CO2. And that will continue to increase as that ice disappears by mid century. The Titanic sank because by the time the lookout called the warning the ship had too much momentum to turn. The Earth has a lot more momentum, e.g. we’ve already likely locked in at least 6 meters of sea level rise from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and decade to decade warming in the near term is also virtually locked in. That momentum is building and the higher we let global temperatures rise the greater the risk of them going really high as amplifying feedbacks strengthen.

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David Wallace-Wells | Hardly Anyone Talks About How Fracking Was an Extraordinary Boondoggle – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

UpdateThis newsletter has been updated to reflect news developments.

“In the energy scramble provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, American liquid natural gas has so far played the role of Europe’s white knight. If Europe manages to keep its lights on, homes heated and factories running this winter, when energy demand is highest, it will be in large part thanks to shipments of American gas, which have more than doubled since the war began. Today, two-thirds of American oil and even more of its gas come from hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, which has played this heroic-seeming role before, in the country’s long effort post-9/11 to get out from the grip of Middle Eastern producers and secure what is often described as “energy independence.” (Donald Trump preferred the term “energy dominance.”) It hasn’t proved quite as useful as you might think: Because energy prices are set on global markets, domestic production doesn’t mean Americans pay less at the pump. But thanks in large part to fracking, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of both oil and gas.

Perhaps the most striking fact about the American hydraulic-fracturing boom, though, is unknown to all but the most discriminating consumers of energy news: Fracking has been, for nearly all of its history, a money-losing boondoggle, profitable only recently, after being propped up by so much investment from Wall Street and private equity that it resembled less an efficient-markets no-brainer and more a speculative empire of bubbles like Uber and WeWork. The American shale revolution did bring the country “energy independence,” whatever that has been worth, and more abundant oil and gas. It has indeed reshaped the entire geopolitical landscape for fuel, though not enough to strip leverage from Vladimir Putin. But the revolution wasn’t primarily a result of some market-busting breakthrough or an engineering innovation that allowed the industry to print cash. From the start, the cash moved in the other direction; the revolution happened only because enormous sums of money were poured into the project of making it happen.”

David Wallace-Wells | What’s Worse: Climate Denial or Climate Hypocrisy? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“In early 2020, Larry Fink — the chief executive of BlackRock, a financial firm whose $10 trillion in assets under management are roughly equivalent to the aggregate wealth of Latin America, and about twice that of Africa — did his best to stake his claim as the face of an environmentally responsible business future. “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” Fink wrote in his annual letter to C.E.O.s that year. He called global warming the most serious threat to the financial system in his 40 years of experience and promised a drastic response from his firm: making sustainability “integral to portfolio construction and risk management”; ditching investments that contribute to the problem; and pursuing not just sustainability but transparency, too, so we all could see what impacts the company was having.

Not long before, captains of industry like Fink could have gotten away with climate indifference, and many with outright denial. But something had changed — with the Paris agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, with Greta Thunberg’s school strikes and the arrival, in the global North, of obvious climate disasters long sequestered in the global South. And finance seemed to take the hint, creating a new wave of purportedly virtuous “environmental, social and governance” (E.S.G.) investing.

But in his annual letter this January, just two years later, Fink struck a radically different tone, rejecting “woke” capitalism and elevating the principle that investors should center only on profits. In the spring, the firm announced it would support fewer shareholder resolutions on climate change, “as we do not consider them to be consistent with our clients’ long-term financial interests.” Just months before, BlackRock closed a $15.5 billion investment in Saudi pipelines.”

David Lindsay.  Amen. Bravo. Here is one of many good comments:

Nomind     Nowhere3h ago

Quarterly profits; that’s what drives this. Something that happens 20, 30, or 100 years in the future doesn’t affect my bottom line right now. Like any animal, human beings are wired to maximize immediate gain. Although we have the cognitive capacity to plan for the future, collectively, we don’t. Time and again, I return to E.O. Wilson’s famous quote: “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”

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David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you David Wallace-Wells. I really thought we had turned a major corner, because of the leadership of Larry Fink at BlackRock. Well, I was wrong again. Edward O Wilson wrote of extinction and date ranges, that included the following paraphrase, we are on track to lose 80% of the species on the planet in the next 80 years. If we lose 50% of the world’s species, humans will probably not make it.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

David Wallace-Wells | What Vaccine Apartheid Portends for the Climate Future – The New York Times

“. . . .  Last week Michael Bloomberg committed $242 million to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in 10 countries across the developing world. (The pledge was on top of his commitment of $500 million to buy and close American coal plants.) Mark Carney — a former head of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England who has taken to describing a 25 percent cut to global G.D.P. as his “base case” expectation for warming — has mobilized companies managing $130 trillion in a corporate alliance for net-zero emissions. The Glasgow agreement urged countries to double their commitments to financing adaptation in the developing world by 2025.

This isn’t nothing. But while philanthropy and finance’s move toward climate action is not an illusion, forensic accounting tells a more nuanced story: Even the headline pledges (which include a fair amount of greenwashed money alongside directed real climate investment) amount to less than a third of the spending necessary to meet the Paris goals, according to the International Energy Agency (and, being largely profit-minded investment, almost entirely neglect the financial needs of those devastated by climate impacts today). This new ambition is real, in other words, and worth celebrating, to greater or lesser degrees.

But as with so much of the climate crisis, finally moving in the right direction, in fits and starts toward only a certain set of opportunities, is not the same as solving the problem whole or giving the world a path to anything we might want to call success. A doubling of adaptation finance, even if fulfilled, could mean as much as $60 billion annually, for instance; the U.N. Environmental Program estimates needs of as much as $300 billion.” . . . .

David Lindsay: Good essay, thank you. Sorry the comments section closed after just 79 comments. I have a fantasy of working as a stand up comic, and saying to the audience, The only problem with the  pandemic is that it didn’t kill nearly enough human beings. The ugly truth behind such gallows humor, is that scientists think the correct carrying capacity of humans on earth is probably about 4 billion, if we are going to not cause the sixth great extinction of species. Somehow,  Wallace-Wells missed the opportunity to connect these dots. Failures to save human lives is never a completely bad thing, when worring about the horrid effects on other species, or human overpopulation and all their garbage and pollution.

David Wallace-Wells | Climate Change Inaction in Congress Has High Costs – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“How bad is the climate stalemate? In the United States, we have gotten used to legislative inaction, on climate as with much else. But even by those debased standards a failure to pass a major emissions-cutting bill this Congress would be, potentially, a generational setback — pushing hopes for paradigm-shifting legislation so far over the time horizon they effectively disappear. To listen to many on the environmental left, it could prove to be a defeat worse than the election of Donald Trump — potentially more damaging both because it comes at a more perilous and urgent time and because it’s not at all clear when the next opportunity would materialize.

At the moment, prospects for such a bill seem grim. The key vote, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has rejected version after version of Build Back Better and has recently begun huddling with Republicans to talk about a bipartisan energy bill — which may or may not be political theater, and surely signals at least frustration with, and possibly disinterest in, negotiating further with other Democrats and the White House.

But since Memorial Day is one conventional-wisdom deadline for introducing new legislation, since no major replacement has publicly emerged, and since the political prospects for passing anything headlined by climate action on a bipartisan basis seem intuitively thin, the most recent iteration of Build Back Better still hangs in the air as a sort of natural comparison point and conceptual model — what we talk about when we talk about Democrats passing climate legislation. And when we talk about it in those terms, the cost of inaction looks really, really large.

Here are seven ways of tabulating it.

We would add about five billion tons of additional carbon to the atmosphere.

It can be hard to calculate the precise effect of legislation before it is passed and goes into effect (as some of the underwhelming impacts of Obamacare have demonstrated). But a team of Princeton researchers led by Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor of energy systems engineering and policy, has been running real-time projections of the impact of Build Back Better as it evolved (including finding that when the bill was revised to offer much more carrot and much less stick, there was a negligible effect on its estimated impact).

With no bill at all, by 2030, Jenkins and his REPEAT (Rapid Energy Policy Evaluation and Analysis Toolkit) team calculate, the country would be 5.5 billion tons short of a net-zero pathway by 2030. Five billion of those tons would be the result of this legislative failure, and the gap would be growing by the year; in 2030, they calculate an annual shortfall of 1.3 billion.

Ninety-one percent of Biden’s decarbonization pledge would go unfulfilled.

President Biden has repeatedly pledged to make America carbon-neutral by 2050, and to meet the necessary interim target of cutting the country’s emissions in half by 2030. Overall, Jenkins and his team calculate, legislative failure would leave 91 percent of the job unfulfilled.

Jenkins also estimates that failure to pass the bill will cost two million American jobs, compared to a future in which it had become law; will withdraw $1.5 trillion of necessary investment from new energy supplies and sectors, potentially killing the future of not just much-debated carbon-capture projects but also nuclear and hydrogen power; and will raise overall energy expenditure by 7 percent nationwide, despite what critics often say about the “costs” of clean energy.”

David Lindsay:  Excellent piece. I hope you could access all of it. Above is just 1/3.

Here is one of many good comments: Click on the link.

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC May 19

In the 31 years since the first report by the IPCC emissions of CO2 have gone up by 60 percent. During a time when we could not plead ignorance we made more change to the climate than during the entire prior history of humanity. The carbon cycle for the last 2 million years was doing 180-280ppm atmospheric CO2 over 10,000 years and we’ve done more change than that in 100 years. The last time CO2 went from 180-280ppm global temperature increased by around 4 degrees C and sea level rose 130 meters. That’s over 30 meters per degree rise in temperature and we’re at about 1.2 degrees now. Here’s a graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg Within a decade or two droughts worse than the Dust Bowl are likely to severely impact the breadbaskets of the world causing massive famines and economic decline. Shortly thereafter we’d be faced with retreat from the coastal areas where most of our large cities are located as the West Antarctic ice sheet breaks and the rate of sea level rise increases dramatically along with maximum storm strength. It is difficult to imagine us walking into this with our eyes open, but here we go.

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And here is another comment by Erik Frederiksen:
Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC May 19

For those questioning the clear climate science in these comments: 1824 Fourier says the surface of the Earth is warmer than it should be, it must be doing something like a greenhouse. 1856 Foote says, hmmm, CO2 is doing it. 1896 Arrhenius says hey if we burn fossil fuels we’re raising CO2, we’re going to warm the Earth and this is how much and he was pretty close. 1940s the modern quantum version with the US Air Force right after WWII. They weren’t doing global warming, they wanted sensors on heat-seeking missiles to shoot down Soviet bombers before they incinerated their cities. The CO2 absorbs infrared whether its coming from the engine of an enemy bomber or the Sun warmed Earth. The idea scientists don’t know what they are talking about is completely absurd.

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David Wallace-Wells | Climate Change Has Made Deadly Heat Waves Normal – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

It doesn’t take the end of the world to upend the way billions live in it. The punishing weather we are uneasily learning to call “normal” is doing that already.

Late last month, a heat wave swallowed South Asia, bringing temperatures to more than a billion people — one-fifth of the entire human population — 10 degrees warmer than the one imagined in the opening pages of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated climate novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” where a similar event on the subcontinent quickly kills 20 million. It is now weeks later, and the heat wave is still continuing. Real relief probably won’t come before the monsoons in June.

Mercifully, according to the young science of “heat death,” air moisture is as important as temperature for triggering human mortality, and when thermometers hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in India and 120 in Pakistan in April, the humidity was quite low. But even so, in parts of India, humidity was still high enough that if the day’s peak moisture had coincided with its peak heat, the combination would have produced “wet-bulb temperatures” — which integrate measures of both into a single figure — already at or past the limit for human survivability. Birds fell dead from the sky.

In Pakistan, the heat melted enough of the Shipsher glacier to produce what’s called a “glacial lake outburst flood,” destroying two power stations and the historic Hassanabad Bridge, on the road to China.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This is an excellent column, thank you David Wallace-Wells. I do not care at all about the need for news organizations of all stripes to push their email newsletters. It smells of marketing intrusion, even if it isn’t. And furthermore, I read this paper for almost half the day, almost every day, so I have no time to study more of it when I go to crash through my emails. I fault the writer, and the paper, for not communicating clearly, if these newsletters, will also be printed in the paper, or always get printed at least in the on-line version of the paper. Who said, the truth is now more important than ever. Is this “newsletter” part of the paper? Or is it an attempt at developing a new revenue stream? Meanwhile, the earth is heating itself to our probable demise. I will remind the NYT of my request last year, that all your news and opinion pieces on climate change and the sixth extinction be removed from your paywall, like you did for Covid, since we are already in a climate crisis, and the public will probably reward you for your excellent work.
Respectfully,
David Lindsay Jr
InconvenientNews.net